Not really. However, there isn’t a whole host of things to do here. Our bus took about three hours from Mersing, and most of that was highway driving. I did notice for the first time, however, that there is undeveloped space here. This did not appear in Indonesia. Every available square inch of land I saw was occupied by a home, business, or active farm. There are vast patches of land here that has forest and field. It was a nice realization.
At about the two-and-a-half-hour mark, some white dude up front realized he’d taken the wrong bus. He was supposed to be going the other way. When he approached the bus driver about this, the driver explained that he yelled, “Kuantan, Kuantan, Kuantan!” multiple times in the bus terminal in Mersing, which is true. College-type white guy continued to try and explain (I don’t know what mind you) and eventually the bus driver casually insisted he return to his seat. He was nice enough to radio the station and secure him a place on a bus to KL though. No apparant thanks from Mr. Wonder Bread. Meh.
Before we left Mersing we started a conversation with an amiable Swiss fellow named Steve. He had been visiting his brother in Singapore and had just started a two-week vacation in Malaysia by diving at Tioman. He’s headed to Taman Negara, too. Once we arrived in Kuantan, we fell in together on our search for cheap lodging. We walked about the area nearish the bus station for about an hour before we settled on the Sungai Wang Hotel, a cheap lil place similar to the one in Mersing. Steve retired to his room, but Indi and I had a quest to find A) some cold water and B) a bookstore where we could replace the copy of ‘Southeast Asia on a Shoestring’ Lonely Planet guide that got left behind in Melaka somewhere. I blame myself. Indi also blames me.
Once we hydrated, we walked another hour or so to the ‘East Coast Mall’ a place that had been advertised on actual highway signs. Underwhelming is an understatement. It had a little book store, but no joy. Once more we succumbed to the western food craving and had Pizza Hut, but I have now taken a leave of absence from that establishment as my pepperonis resembled small sliced summer sausages. It was awful. Serves me right, I suppose. SIDENOTE: We ate at KFC (too many) times in Mersing as it was the only late restaurant available. They have chicken nuggets there, a treat that was discontinued in the US some years ago. They taste just like they used to. It’s crazy that I had to come across the world to experience my past. Anyway…
We eventually went to another mall nearby, this one providing us not only the book we needed, but a SE Asia phrasebook that made Indi squee with joy. We also spent some time @ a Starbucks (free wi-fi) to find information not only about Taman Negara, but a country we originally hadn’t planned on visiting: Myanmar.
Myanmar (also known as Burma) is not well traveled. The government is a rather oppressive military junta and it gets a lot of bad press. True, the gov’t there isn’t good, but all the travel info (from online and other travelers that have visited) has been extremely positive. As in, everyone who has been there says it’s the best place in SE Asia. Friendliest people, least amount of crime, and truest of experiences. We’ve put that on a ‘probable’ status sometime late in the year. Interestingly, there is hardly any internet access outside of the capital, mobile phone service is non-existant, and there isn’t a single ATM in the country. Most business is conducted in US Dollars. I recommend some reading if you’re interested. If we decide to go there, we’ll be out of contact for the entire 28 days our visa allows us to be there. Be still, heart of my mother. This is not some plot to cause you a heart attack. I love you a lot. And it’s months away, anyway.
We did some more exploring yesterday, found another mall (lol) and walked down the river. It’s nice, but not too developed. Better than Tulsa, but that’s not saying much. We also discovered there are NO rooms up near Taman Negara until Monday. We will be in Kuantan a little longer than we originally expected…but that’s kinda ok too, because you need a little time to truly get the feel of a place. There’s a nice little Indian 24-hr restaurant across the street that has been very friendly. We even found an internet cafe, ha!